Poised alongside the Loire River and strategically situated between northern and southern France lies a chain of 300 castles forming the Loire Valley. From fortified castles of the 10th century to castles of nobility, you can find every shade of French novelty, Renaissance architecture, and power here. A symbol of the French monarchy, the Loire Valley châteaux are not to be missed. Here’s us giving you all the (royal) tea about the 10 best Loire Valley Castles, with information about things to see in each of the châteaux, getting there, scoring the cheapest tickets, and more.
The History of Loire Valley Castles
Although the roots of Loire Valley can be traced back to 52 BC during Julius Caesar’s conquests, the region owes much to Emperor Augustus for its state of peace and stability. Throughout history, this region has also been greatly influenced by the Romans, Vikings, Saracens, and Atila the Hun – each one fighting for a piece of this fertile land.
From the 5th to 15th century, foundations were laid by great political and religious centers which led to the destiny of France as we know it today. The geography, battles, and the Royal families’ greed for control have brought marvelous castles to this landscape. The castles are dotted along the Loire River flowing into the towns of Orléans, Blois, Amboise, Tours, Angers, Saumur, Nantes and Saint-Nazaire. The region had been added to the list of World Heritage sites in the year 2000.
The 10 Best Loire Valley Castles in France
Of the 300 odd castles in the region, here are the 10 best you should consider visiting.
1Château de Chenonceau
This Château is the zenith of the village of Chenonceaux. It was built in 1522 and is well-preserved. Château de Chenonceau was nicknamed ‘Château des Dames’ after the women of the chateau who influenced its design and destiny. The Château is built over River Cher like a bridge and is surrounded by lush gardens and pine tree forests. Its unique landscape makes it the most visited Château in France – only second to the Palace of Versailles – and the most photographed among all the Loire Valley Castles.
The closest train station is Chenonceaux and is located only 10 minutes from the Château by walk.
Drive to road 8 D976 and take a left turn to Parc de Chenonceaux. Alternatively, you can drive on Rue de Chenonceaux and take the road 15 Rue du Château to the entrance. You can also take the 5 Rue de Chenonceaux and take a left to enter Rue du Château.
Explore The Grand Gallery
Located just above River Cher, on the French arches is the Grand Gallery. It is said that some of the most elite parties of the 16th century were hosted here. Later, the gallery served as a military hospital and an escape route for resistants and Jews fleeing from German-occupied France.
Louise of Lorraine’s Mourning Room
This elegant black-walled bedroom is one of the best-maintained rooms here. When King Henry III was assassinated in 1589, his wife Louise of Lorraine retreated to their bedroom and spent 11 years mourning him here.
Up In The Air In A Hot Air Balloon
See the castle and the surrounding region of River Cher from up above on a hot air balloon ride. Make sure to book your tickets online.
Sitting on the low-lying island in the middle of the Indre river is Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, one of the most opulent castles of Loire Valley. It rises straight out of the waters reflecting the Château’s façades, creating an illusion of a floating chateau. Inspirations from the Italian Renaissance style and early French Renaissance styles are prominent in the elements used for decorating the walkway, high roofs, and vertical dormer windows. The interiors follow the neo-renaissance style and are decorated with Flemish tapestries. The roof is decorated with a hand-crafted wooden frame which has recently been restored to showcase the intricate and complex techniques used in its construction.
The nearest train station is Azay-Le-Rideau, which is 20 minutes from the castle.
Drive on D751and take a right to enter D17. Turn left to 590 Rue de Chinon, from where you can access the castle.
Visit Monsieur Dufresne’s Collection
Monsieur Dufresne is an obsessive collector of all things vintage. The museum showcases his collection of vehicles, cars, bicycles, planes, trucks, motorbikes, tractors, agricultural or military machinery, vintage posters, and guillotine.
Picnic In The Gardens
The gardens of the Château, located by the river, imitate an English garden. You can plan a beautiful picnic overlooking the Château’s reflection of the clear waters.
Take A Château Tour
Take a tour around the Château to learn more about its alluring interiors, details on its ceiling and staircase, and what they signify. Book your Château d'Azay-le-Rideau tickets here.
3Château de Chaumont
The Château de Chaumont is a charming palace that in an instant, reminds us of Disney movie castles. It was originally built to keep watch between the regions of Blois and Anjou. Charles I d'Amboise built the newer castle on the previous ruins during the 15th century and lived here for a good 500 years. The Chateau is built on a high hill overlooking the Loire River, which makes it one of the most picturesque Loire Valley castles. The courtyards and gardens are brimming with lavender flowers almost year-round. . The center of attraction is undoubtedly the external facades that were built in Renaissance style.
The closest train station, Onzain - Chaumont-sur-Loire, is only a 10- minute walk from the castle.
Drive on D952 road and turn right on to the Loire Bridge. The castle is only 5 minutes from the Bridge.
Visit the Stables
Built during the year 1877 by Paul-Ernest Sanson, the stables were thought to be the most modern of the era. They have an impressive collection of harnesses made by Hermès. Inside you will find the lavish stables divided into two courtyards of equal sizes containing horses and horse-drawn vehicles.
Attend the Garden Festivals
The gardens are divided into 24 impressive spaces and host festivals such as the International Garden Festival, Biomimicry in the Garden, and others throughout the year.
Take a ride on Millière Raboton
The boats of Millière Raboton have been the same for centuries. You can hop on and take a ride across the Loire River. Get your tickets here..
4Château du Clos Lucé
Previously known as the Manoir du Cloux, Château du Clos Lucé is the grandest summer house of the French Royalty. It is also famous for being the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci. The walls of the Château are made of tuffeau stone, typical from the XVth century, with long, white French windows. The Château’s vibrant colors stand out compared to the old and grey castles around. Wander the halls where more than 40 models designed by Leonardo da Vinci are well-preserved and displayed. You can see the first few meters of the underground tunnel that connects this Château to Chateau d’Amboise.
The closest station is Gare d'Amboise and it’s only a 10-minute walk to the castle.
Take road D952 and turn onto L'Ile d'Or bridge, the castle is only 15 minutes away.
Tour de l'Horloge
Tour de l'Horloge is a tower built in 1500 AD that acted as an observation deck. You can still climb to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the Amboise.
Wine tour at Les Caves Duhard
Les Caves Duhard is a historic winery that offers guided tours and wine tasting. Get your sip of fresh, delicious wine and learn the art of winemaking. Book your tickets here.
Oppidum des Châteliers
Oppidum des Châteliers is an archaeological site, which covers prehistoric, Iron Age and Antiquity remains of the region.
Château d'Amboise is the Royal residence of the Amboise family. Its origin can be traced back to 987 and was extensively rebuilt in the 15th century. The Salle du Conseil room used to be one of the most sought-after ballrooms in the town, back during the 15th and 16th centuries. You can also find Leonardo Da Vinci’s tomb in the chapel of Saint-Hubert nearby and a monument of Da Vinci in the Château d'Amboise park. The view of the castle and the river beside it from the gardens is unparalleled by any other in the region.
The closest station is Gare d'Amboise and it’s only a 10-minute walk to the castle.
Take road D952 and turn onto L'Ile d'Or bridge. From here, the castle is a 5 minutes drive.
Visit the Église Saint-Florentin Church
This well-preserved church is a must-see in Amboise. It was previously named Notre-Dame-en-Grève since Louis XI faced health issues when it was built.
Catch the best views from L'Ile d'Or
L'Ile d'Or is a public campsite on the primary bridge that leads to the castle and provides unmatched views of the valley. It also has a walking track and play area for children.
Visit the nearby Château Gaillard Amboise
This is a smaller restored Italian castle located behind the Château d'Amboise with period furniture. The gardens are more impressive than that of the Royal Castle and would be worthy of a tour.
6Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord is the most recognizable and the largest of Loire Valley castles. Flaunting distinctive French architecture, it sits in the lap of the Château’s fort with corner towers. Originally built as a hunting lodge for Francis I, 28 years of construction led to this Château becoming the grandest of all castles in the Valley. Later, it became a model for castles built all over Europe including the Schwerin Castle, and Waddesdon Manor. You cannot leave Loire Valley without a glimpse of this majestic Château.
The nearest train station is Menards which is a 20-minute drive from the castle.
The nearest bus stop is called Château de Chambord and it drops you off just near the entrance of the castle.
Visit the stable of Écurie du Maréchal de Saxe
Écurie du Maréchal de Saxe is a grand stable that can be easily mistaken for another Château in the valley. This grand place has some great horsemanship demonstrations and performances to entertain adults and children.
Spend quality time at Étang de la Faisanderie
Étang de la Faisanderie is a small lake just 15 minutes away from the castle. Head here for some secluded, quality time around, nature especially if you visit in the early evening.
Wildlife observation Mirador
The observation deck at Mirador was solely made to observe deers and other animals while hunting. You can spot at least 5 animals from the top of the beautiful castle.
One of the most well-maintained castles of the Loire valley, Château d'Angers is a gem to visit. The first things to immediately catch your eye are the elegantly kept gardens and the corner towers. It was founded in the 9th century and expanded to its current size in the 13th century. The castle hangs over River Maine and was designed with a vast fortress, making it difficult to see the Château and the gardens within. Inside, the Château is almost fable-like with vintage grey facades towering over the garden. From the high towers, you can see the entire village of Angers and the castles surrounding it.
The nearest train station is Gare d'Angers Saint-Laud, only a 10-minute walk from the castle.
The nearest tram stop is Foch Haras. From there the castle is only 5 minutes away by foot.
The closest bus stop is Chateau which is located just outside the castle’s entrance.
Take a selfie at the Pont de la Basse Chaîne
Pont de la Basse Chaîne is a point on the River Maine bridge. It provides great photo ops and views.
Take a walk in the Promenade
The Promenade Jean Turc is a beautiful walkway along the Maine river. If you are visiting during the morning or evening, take a walk for free and explore the French village.
8Château de Blois
Château de Blois can easily pass for a classical version of the Palace of Versailles and is one of the largest Loire Valley Castles. It once controlled all economic, social, and cultural activities in the town of Blois. More than 300 rooms, each equipped with a fireplace, can be seen inside the Chateau. Its architecture is a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Classical styles. Today the Chateau doubles as a museum, showcasing more than 35,000 works and exhibits.
The nearest train station is Blois - Chambord and is a 5-minute walk from the castle.
the nearest stop is Blois (Bus Station) and is only 5 minutes from the castle.
Take a drive on D952 and turn into Maison de l'étudiant to reach the castle.
Take a historic tour of the Musée d’histoire naturelle
Musée de Histoire Naturelle was a 13th-century convent that has been converted into a museum of animal models and fossils with interactive features.
Visit Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin
Featuring dinosaur automatons, a life-size kaleidoscope, a hallucinoscope, and more, Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin is a museum dedicated to the history of magic and the life of French illusionist, Robert-Houdin. The tricks and illusions will surely leave you bamboozled.
Statue de Denis Papin
Just 500 meters from the Château de Blois is the statue of Denis Papin which is located on top of a hill. The stairs that lead you up are painted in black and white. From the top, you can catch a pretty sight of the whole town.
9Château de Cheverny
If you ever wondered what inspired Château de Moulinsart in the comic book the Adventures of Tintin, it was Château de Cheverny. This opulent Chateau is the most symmetrical castle in the valley and was built between 1604 and 1634. It is still managed and owned by the descendants of Hurault’s kin, the family that has historically been living and owning the Château. Along with its exquisite collection of furniture, tapestries, and paintings, the Chateau also showcases a permanent Tintin exhibition. If you are a fan of the comics, this is a no-miss, especially since the fictional halls of Moulinsart look exactly like those of the Chateau!
The nearest station is at Blois - Chambord. You will have to drive for 30 minutes on D765 to reach the castle.
Hop on to D765 and drive until you reach D102. Take the cut and you will reach the castle in 5 minutes.
Take a walking tour
Cheverny is a picturesque town in the French countryside and a walking tour is the best way to explore it to the fullest.
Jazzin’ Cheverny is a 3-day Jazz festival that takes place close to the castle. Musicians from all over the world come together here to celebrate music.
Take a wine tour
There are several wineries close to the castle such as Earl Loquineau Earl and Tessier Philippe that offer a tour to explain how wine is made and offer tastings as part of the experience.
Château d’Ussé is the fairy tale castle that inspired the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Built in the 11th century, Château d'Ussé features a Flamboyant Gothic style with new Renaissance motifs. Charles Perrault, the author of many fairy tales we know today, was inspired by this castle to write The Sleeping Beauty. The paintings that hang on the castle walls represent the Royal French Monarchy and the activities they engaged in for leisure. Today it is one of many castles that have been classified as Monument Historique, a title given to the national heritage sites in France.
The closest train station is Rivarennes, from where the castle is an 8-minute drive away.
Take a drive on the D751 and turn left onto D134. Drive straight for 10 minutes and you should reach the castle entrance.
Visit Musée Maurice Dufresne
Musée Maurice Dufresne is a heritage museum with a stunning collection of everything vintage, not just from the region, but from all around the world.
Get adventurous at Saint Benoit Aventure
Saint Benoit has thrilling adventure activities for children and adults. They have rope bridge crossing, archery tags, and giant swings among other activities.
Visit Forteresse Royale de Chinon
Forteresse Royale de Chinon is a fortress built on the highest hill in the town by Henry II of England, Joan of Arc & Knights Templar. The fortress glows from within at night and is a sight to witness if you visit the Chateau in the evening.
Loire Valley Castles Tour
If you want to see the best of Loire Valley castles, a Loire Valley Castles Tour is the way to go. Not only will you skip the line, but you will also get an audio guide to help you navigate yourself around the castles and learn the history and other interesting tidbits about the castle. An even better route is to score the combo tours that give you access to more than just one castle and help you save a few euros!
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Best Loire Valley Castles Map
Navigate your way through the valley with the help of this interactive map.
Handy Tips For First Time Visitors
- Saving money: If you are visiting more than one castle, which you must, go for the combo Loire Valley Castle Tours since they not only save time in booking or standing in lines in those castles but also save you a few euros.
- What to wear and bring: Wear a comfortable pair of shoes since there is a lot to see not only inside the castle but also surrounding the castles. Wear suitable clothes for the weather since it can get especially a little chilly during the winters.
- How long to stay: You can explore two castles in a day. Depending on the number of castles you want to visit, your stay at Loire Valley can be shortened or extended.
- Where to stay: Here are a few options of hotels depending on your budget:
Budget range: Château de Briançon, Terres de France - Le Domaine Du Golf, Brit Hotel Saumur
Medium range: The Blue Room, Chateau of La Faye, Fontevraud L'Hôtel
Luxury range: Hôtel Château de Verrières, Domaine Plessis Gallu, Château D'artigny
- Take a wine tour: The Loire Valley is very famous for its fine French wine. Make sure to squeeze in a wine tour between castle hopping.
Ready to visit Loire Valley?
Now that we've rounded up our best Loire Valley Castles, you can pick, choose, and mix and match different ideas to plan the perfect day with top things to do in Loire Valley.